Ask and ye shall receive. Just yesterday, some of us here at
waxing nostalgic for
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, and lo: Today,
book critic Laura Miller offers
a run-down of "urban fantasy" novels
whose heroines would make our dear, departed, demon-killing California girl proud. Among others, Miller discusses the
(basis for the HBO series
) and the
Anita Blake books
Laurell K. Hamilton
"Urban fantasy" ends up being a bit of a slippery genre. At one point, Miller calls it "a cross of fairy tale, noir and classic coming-of-age narrative." There's sex and romance aplenty-though in varying ratios, depending on the series in question-but the stories generally avoid the pat, happily-ever-after endings usually found in romance novels. In Miller's depiction, the books are delicious but also nutritious-perfect for those nights "when my brain is just too weary for Ian McEwan but not soft enough to settle for The Mentalist .
Sign me up.
Besides being an excellent service piece-thanks for mapping out my summer reading list, Laura!-the essay also offers a fascinating glimpse into the ways we categorize art, particularly pulpy "genre" art, and art that's by (or for) women. Urban fantasy novels are sometimes called "paranormal romances," a term that, as Miller shows, can be wielded with a sneer. Snobbery sucks, but I'm hardly one to throw stones-I'd heard that label before, and even though I'm a big fan of both of those constituent elements (demons? sex? what's not to like?), I never really bothered to check out the offerings. Thank god, then, for critics like Miller, who know how to make us feel good about eating our candy.
Photograph of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Sarah Michelle Gellar by Getty Images.